Less than a week after a brutal primetime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9, the New Orleans Saints had an opportunity against an inexperienced rookie quarterback to get their season back on track on Sunday. Unfortunately, myriad penalties and putrid offensive play tell the story of the loss vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 10 for the Saints. It does not require a team of football academics to figure out what went wrong for the NFC South franchise, either.
The Saints did not have a lead at any point during the game. Costly turnovers and an inability to create a running game against a Steelers defense that entered Sunday with the ninth-fewest rushing yards allowed (943) in the 2022 NFL season sealed their fate in the end.
Now sitting in last place in the NFC South, the 3-7 Saints ought to be preparing to look ahead to 2023 as whatever playoffs hope they may have once had are circling the drain. With their Week 10 game officially in the rearview, let’s take a look at three Saints who are most to blame for the team’s loss to the Steelers.
3. The Saints’ defense, ten total penalties
According to team beat reporter John DeShazier, the Saints’ defense committed ten penalties, at least six of which gave the Steelers’ offense first downs. One of the core pillars of success in football is ensuring that good, fundamental play occurs. While it is impossible to commit zero mistakes throughout a game, double-digit penalties are inexcusable, mainly when over half of them give your opponent a first down. The defense fell short.
According to Pro Football Reference, rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett entered Week 10 with a 2:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Some credit deserves to go in the rookie’s direction, but an inability to create a single turnover against a green signal-caller in a game warrants blame too. Moreover, the Saints’ defense allowed the Steelers to run for a season-high 217 rushing yards on Sunday. Per Pro Football Reference, the Steelers have five games in 2022 with under 100 rushing yards.
Allowing an anemic offense to execute a season-best output level is genuinely disappointing. However, it is difficult to imagine that the Saints coaching staff will struggle to identify issues to go over in film review in the coming week.
2. Dennis Allen
Allen holds responsibility for his inability to handle a proper offensive game plan to mitigate the miscues of his defense. The Steelers’ running game allowed them to possess the ball for almost 39 minutes. As such, it is incumbent upon the offense to pick up the pace and create scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, the Saints converted only three of their 12 third downs. In addition, they did nothing to get Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara opportunities as a receiver, or a rusher, out of the backfield. As a result, Kamara was held to under 100 total yards for only the second time in 2022 against the Steelers.
Allen and company will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out why they couldn’t get into a groove on offense in Week 10. Glaring lack of involvement for Kamara aside, there will have to be some difficult conversations had at the Saints’ facility as they prepare for Week 11. Perhaps a change at quarterback might do the trick.
1. Andy Dalton
Ultimately, the individual on the thinnest ice in the aftermath of this loss has to be Dalton. It is important to note that Allen said in late October that Dalton would remain the Saints’ starter as long as the success continued. While it seems pretty evident that Allen was in no rush to consider a QB change following their loss to the Ravens in Week 9, he may want to consider a move at this point.
Dalton only managed to post 172 passing yards against the Steelers to go with a pair of interceptions and a single touchdown. The Saints are now 2-5 with Dalton as the starting quarterback, and by all accounts, Jameis Winston is fully healthy after sustaining injuries early in 2022. So is there any guarantee that Winston is the key that will unlock the Saints’ offense? No, but at a particular stage, something has to give.
While a potential push for a Super Bowl run is likely out of reach for the Saints, the team committed to a two-year contract with Winston with the intent of him being the starting quarterback. Whether he is the answer long-term or not is a debate for another time, but unless the Saints plan to throw in the towel for the remainder of the year, Allen ought to yank Andy Dalton and reinstall the former Heisman Trophy winner under center.